Australia: Tunnel to nowhere? Azizi v Roads and Maritime Services

Last Updated: 4 September 2016
Article by Breellen Warry and Bianca Fernandes

Most Read Contributor in Australia, September 2017

The recent Land and Environment Court (LEC) decision of Azizi v Roads and Maritime Services [2016] NSWLEC 97 (Azizi) is the first to consider s62(2) of the Land Acquisition (Just Terms) Compensation Act 1991 (JT Act) which sets out when compensation is payable where subsurface land is acquired for the purposes of constructing a tunnel.

The case is of interest because it had the potential to have far reaching implications. If the LEC had concluded that the applicant landowner was entitled to compensation, the decision was likely to have enlivened claims for compensation by landowners for the sub-surface acquisition of land for tunnels. As explained in this article however, the LEC found that no compensation was payable to the applicant landowner.


In Azizi, the LEC considered a preliminary question of whether the compulsory acquisition of substratum land at Beecroft as part of the Northconnex project (Land) was compulsorily acquired for the purposes of constructing a tunnel within the meaning of s62(2) of the JT Act. If the answer was "yes", no compensation was payable to the landowner.

The Northconnex project involves the construction and operation of northbound and southbound twin dual carriageway road tunnels connecting the Hills M2 Motorway at West Pennant Hills to the F3 Freeway (M1) at Wahroonga (Project).

Relevantly, subsections 62(1) and (2) provide that:

  1. If the land compulsorily acquired under this Act consists only of an easement, or right to use land, under the surface for the construction and maintenance of works (such as a tunnel, pipe or conduit for the conveyance of water, sewage or electrical cables), compensation is not payable except for actual damage done in the construction of the work or caused by the work.
  2. If land under the surface is compulsorily acquired under this Act for the purpose of constructing a tunnel, compensation is not payable (subject to subsection (1)) unless:
    1. the surface of the overlying soil is disturbed, or
    2. the support of that surface is destroyed or injuriously affected by the construction of the tunnel, or
    3. any mines or underground working in or adjacent to the land are thereby rendered unworkable or are injuriously affected.

The landowner submitted that:

  1. The purpose of the acquisition is the commercial venture comprising the various components of the Project and therefore goes well beyond the construction of tunnels. Therefore, RMS needs to demonstrate that the words "constructing a tunnel" mean "constructing and using a tunnel".
  2. Sections 62(1) and 62(2) must be read together. A narrower construction of "tunnel" in s62(2) is in line with the meaning of "tunnel" in s62(1) (limited to tunnels for the housing of passive service installations) and should be preferred to a wider construction which includes not only the "construction" of the tunnel but its "use".
  3. A distinction should be made between passive and non-passive uses of a tunnel. This should be applied to section 62 so that, for example, "passive" service installations and tunnel construction should be read as being distinct and separate from the "use" of a tunnel.


The LEC largely agreed with RMS' submissions and held that no compensation was payable to the landowner. In particular, the LEC found that:

  1. The purpose of the Project (and therefore the purpose of the acquisition) is for the construction of two tunnels. After construction, the tunnels will be used as a dual carriageway for highways. The primary purpose is not altered by the fact that the management and financial delivery of the Project will be through a private consortium which will operate the highways as toll roads.
  2. It is clear that s62(1) and s62(2) address different circumstances. The first is directed to the acquisition of an easement or right to use land. The second applies to the acquisition of land for the purposes of constructing a tunnel. There is no statutory basis for construing the word "tunnel" in subsection (2) by reference to subsection (1) and the description in the parentheses of service installations.
  3. It would lead to an absurd result if s62(2) only applied to construction and not use of the tunnel. The LEC also considered such an interpretation to be troubling given the public resources at stake.
  4. There is no distinction between "passive" and "non-passive" uses of a tunnel. Just as the conveyance of sewage, water or electricity is a use, so is the use of a tunnel as a roadway.
  5. The LEC did not find the need to consider the second reading speech or extrinsic material which can be given weight in the event of ambiguity. The LEC held that the language of s62(2) is clear and unambiguous.

The case is a good example of the application of a well-established principle of statutory construction - the plain meaning of the text must be considered. Here, the LEC held that the words of s62(2) were clear and unambiguous in specifying that compensation is not payable for the construction of a tunnel unless the circumstances in s62(2)(a)-(c) arise. The case also provides clarity for public authorities acquiring substratum land, particularly in the context of not only the Northconnex but also Westconnex and future infrastructure projects.

This publication does not deal with every important topic or change in law and is not intended to be relied upon as a substitute for legal or other advice that may be relevant to the reader's specific circumstances. If you have found this publication of interest and would like to know more or wish to obtain legal advice relevant to your circumstances please contact one of the named individuals listed.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.